Jeju, South Korea’s largest island is popularly known as the pearl of the South China Sea by virtue of its beautiful volcanic and natural landscape. Annually, Jeju attracts over 10 million tourists and naturally, the tourist business has developed; however, tourism entails many downsides that cannot be neglected.
Currently, tourist industry in Jeju often exploits the island’s natural resources and instead uses those in building hotels and resorts. The problem of natural exploitation is exacerbated by the purchase of land by wealthy Chinese people. Naturally the erosion of tourist industries erodes local industries and businesses, well known for their specialties, such as tangerine, green tea, and sea foods. In as much as the majority of local population depends on the income derived from selling these goods, the problem of the over-expansion of tourist businesses is a problem that needs to be adjusted.
One must then ask. Can social business model be used to resolve this issue? As far as we are concerned, social business model is definitely essential in moving towards sustainable development, an economic development progressed in the absence of social risks and damages. But the idea of social entrepreneurship in South Korea as well as in Jeju is not popular amongst the business cycle. To our surprise, however, we found a local business that operates as a form of community business model that resembles a lot from the aspects of the social business model.
Located nearby our school, Citrus Box Café operates as a form of community business. The café sells products made by using local agricultural products, mainly tangerine. The café opened in December 26th, 2014 and was selected by Jeju Free International City Development Centre (JDC) to be funded nearly $130,000. But behind such a huge funding, there was one premise: that the café has to return 50% of its product back to the local community. This is used for providing local people with access to social welfare as well as helping them to produce more goods. Because the café works toward sustaining the local goods, and thus sustaining the livelihoods of local people, the café is clearly a rare social business model found in Jeju. In addition to sustainable development, through funding this café, JDC hopes that the café will serve as a tool for building up strong bonds within the village community as well as promoting the local business.
Although JDC is not a tourist business, the company employed social business model to preserve small local business in the face of the incursion of larger businesses and industries and thus managed to make the lives of locals much easier than before. However, we also found out that because the café lacks profits, the café currently is not able to return its profit back to the local community. Despite selling local product itself is justified, as a form of social business, returning part of its product back to the community is what the JDC and the café really wants.
Not only to raise awareness of the social business model of the café, but also to encourage students and teachers to go and visit the café, we decided to sell the products made from the café during our end of year fete. Along with all students and teachers, many parents as well as other local Jeju people came along to the fete. Using this as an opportunity, we raised lots of money on behalf of the café and the JDC, with the promise of using 50% of profit in promoting the social welfare of local farmers. Moreover, we distributed posters introducing the operational model of the café, to encourage more people to visit the café in person. That way, we were both able to raise awareness of social business model as well as help the local community.
Of course we do not want this to be a mere one time event. We are planning more projects to promote the café and we will also investigate more community business, or social business model within Jeju Island with the bigger aim of settling the aspect of social entrepreneurship in Jeju.